On September 16, 2022, the Bombay High Court ('BHC') disposed of writ petitions filed by Star India (P) Ltd. ('Star'), Disney Broadcasting (India) Ltd. ('Disney') and Asianet Star Communications Pvt. Ltd. ('Asianet Star') (collectively referred to as 'Petitioners'), challenging an Order passed by the CCI.1 As background, CCI had ordered the DG (based on allegations raised by Asianet Digital Network (P) Ltd. ('Asianet/Informant') to initiate investigation against Star, Disney, and Asianet Star for alleged abuse of dominance by providing Kerala Communicators Cables Limited ('KCCL') significant discounts that were camouflaged as marketing and advertising agreements, causing competitive disadvantage to KCCL's competitors2
CCI argued that BHC does not have territorial jurisdiction because the alleged abusive conduct pertains to the State of Kerala and no part of cause of action arose in Maharashtra, the relevant geographical market was the State of Kerala, the Informant and consumers were based in Kerala, and the said marketing and advertising agreements were executed in Kerala. The Petitioners contended that part cause of action arose in Maharashtra, the effective consequences of the CCI's orders are felt by the Petitioners in Maharashtra, the subject matter of the complaint, i.e., the agreements were negotiated in Maharashtra, and the payments were received in Maharashtra. It was also contended that CCI is a national regulator having pan India jurisdiction.
The BHC held that:
Firstly, the geographic territory was limited to the State of Kerala. CCI having a pan-India jurisdiction is insufficient to invoke jurisdiction of any High Court. Similarly, just because the Petitioners carry business in the State of Maharashtra, BHC could not be said to have jurisdiction. The determinative factor for conferring jurisdiction is the place of accrual of cause of action or part cause of action. The mere fact that the business is carried on in a particular place will not confer jurisdiction unless it is shown that the place of business is an integral part of the business.
Secondly, the impugned investigation was ordered in respect of the agreements entered into between the Star and Asianet/ its competitors, which have its area of operation in the State of Kerala. The complaint never alleged that the Petitioners have committed anti-competitive acts with the parties in the State of Maharashtra. They restricted the allegations to the State of Kerala. Thus, the effects of CCI's orders could not have been said to be felt in Maharashtra. The fact that agreements were negotiated in Maharashtra is not enough to invoke BHC's jurisdiction as the commission and omission occurred in Kerala.
Since no cause of action arose in Maharashtra, the BHC dismissed the writ petitions on ground of territorial jurisdiction with a liberty to the Petitioners to approach the appropriate forum.
1 W.P. (C) No. 3755/2022.
2 W.P No. 3845/2022, W.P No. 3860/2022, W.P No. 3755/2022.
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